Cybersecurity has been attracting more attention in the last couple of years. Due to the pandemic outbreak, cyberattacks have increased by 600%. Furthermore, a study shows that they are vastly undercounted.
For that reason, taking care of network security should be every business owner’s priority. Excellent security measures bring numerous benefits, including increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and better return on investment (ROI).
However, determining and configuring the best security system can be overwhelming. In this article, let’s see eight small business network security tips that can help you protect your sensitive data.
1. Use HTTPS
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) adds a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on top of the HTTP environment.
The HTTPS environment protects data transfer between a browser and a website. The protocol encrypts the transmitted information into random strings of characters. Also, it provides a unique key to the intended end to decode them.
As this feature is vital to protect sensitive data, website owners must have it on their website. Users can also easily differentiate websites using HTTP and HTTPS, as they have visible signals on their browsers.
Non-HTTPS websites have the red Not Secure symbol right before their URLs. Whereas HTTPS websites show a Secure padlock icon.
Site owners need to install an SSL certificate to migrate their websites to the HTTPS environment. Some of the best Certification Authorities to buy an SSL from include DigiCert, Let’s Encrypt, and Comodo.
Alternatively, many hosting providers provide a free SSL certificate in their shared, VPS, and cloud hosting plans. Therefore, be sure to check with your hosting provider and save up to $11.95.
2. Install Anti-Malware Software
Anti-malware software is a must for more solid network security. It’s a program for malicious software detection, prevention, and protection. Such an application often comprises malware removal, enabling users to keep their system virus-free.
Computers and websites without anti-malware software are at higher risk for cyber attacks. This may lead to frequent crashes, customer loss, and data theft.
On the other hand, here are some benefits of installing a debugged anti-malware application or plugin:
- Robust firewalls. They refer to a security system that analyzes a network’s traffic and blocks suspicious IP addresses. Firewalls prevent DDoS attacks – a cyber threat that aims to overload server resources with an overwhelming amount of requests.
- Malware scans. Antivirus software conducts regular checkups to ensure a system’s health. Some anti-malware applications offer automated, scheduled scans. It’s a great feature to look for when researching the best one to install.
- Spam filters. These features detect unsolicited emails and prevent them from getting into users’ inboxes. They’re vital to utilize as 94% of malware is distributed via emails.
- Data restoration. Most anti-malware software allows users to restore their corrupted or lost files after a cyber security incident. Having this feature can save time and effort, as users won’t have to worry about configuring their business operations all over again.
Some excellent anti-malware applications to secure your computer include Malwarebytes and BitDefender. On top of that, Sucuri Security, SiteLock, and Jetpack are some of the best WordPress security plugins to install on your content management system (CMS).
3. Create and Implement Cybersecurity Policies
Cybersecurity policies set standard operating procedures for an organization’s data and network protocols. For instance, they can contain rules for using public Wi-Fi, software updates, and creating strong passwords.
Here are some cybersecurity policies to consider:
- Acceptable use policy (AUP). Employees using their companies’ information technology assets should be aware of this policy. It specifies constraints and practices that users need to follow to safely use the device or software.
- Password recovery policy. Encourage all employees to use solid passwords for each of their accounts. This policy usually covers tips for creating strong passwords and how to protect them.
- Incident response plan policy. In the event of cyber attacks, data loss, or hardware malfunction, it helps to have security guidelines to follow to prevent further damage.
- Bring your own device (BYOD) policy. An excellent BYOD plan can bring numerous advantages. For example, business owners can save more time and money as they won’t have to purchase devices or provide training for using the new equipment.
- Server audit This ensures all servers are configured according to a company’s security policies.
Conducting routine security awareness training helps employees better understand the company’s cyber attack prevention plans and what to do in times of crisis. If you need some help, KnowBe4 is a great example of security awareness training software.
4. Don’t Forget Password Security
Good passwords are crucial elements in cyber security. Without a strong one, hackers can break into a system more easily.
Typically, hackers use a brute force attack to crack a password. This method enables them to scan through millions of username-password combinations until they get the right one.
For that reason, creating a strong password is an excellent way to ensure login security. Here are some tips for that:
- Make it long. Hackers can crack an eight-character long password in just a few hours. Therefore, people should create at least 12-character long passwords to keep their accounts secure.
- Combine all characters. Creating a random string of numbers, lowercase letters, capital letters, and special symbols helps prevent dictionary attacks.
- Never recycle a password. Once hackers find the correct password for a victim’s account, they’ll use it to hack other accounts. Using the same password for multiple accounts risks getting your data exposed.
- Don’t include personal information. Names, birthdays, and addresses are easily accessible information. For that reason, hackers often use these when trying to crack a login credential.
- Opt for a passphrase. This refers to a sequence of unrelated words, like “zebraglassoutsideconditioning” or “sweetmitochondriariverbanks.” Combine random characters for a more solid passphrase.
- Take advantage of two-factor authentication (2FA). It strengthens login security by requiring users to input another piece of information aside from their passwords. The aim is to verify the legitimacy of users trying to gain access.
In addition, regularly updating passwords reduces the risk of exposure to your system. It’s best to change your passwords:
- Every 30/60/90 days. This method helps ensure your password is not compromised and makes it harder for hackers to perform malicious acts, reducing the risk of data breaches.
- After a security breach. When a company is experiencing a data breach, its employees’ sensitive data is put at risk. It’s best to change passwords immediately before accounts become inaccessible.
- After discovering malware. Change your passwords straight away if your anti-malware scanner finds a virus. However, do this from another device to ensure that the malicious program doesn’t record your new credentials.
- If you suspect unauthorized access. Your email will let you know when this happens – change the password for the reported account as soon as possible.
- After using public Wi-Fi. Although it’s best never to utilize it, change your password right after disconnecting from public Wi-Fi. This helps keep your digital footprints secure.
5. Limit Access to Data
Both physical and digital data are any company’s most valuable assets. They may include financial information, research findings, and future business ideas. As some of them can be confidential, excellent data management is crucial.
For example, eCommerce websites have access to customers’ sensitive information, such as addresses and credit card details, which are very attractive to hackers. Without sophisticated cyber security measures, those sites will be more vulnerable to hackers’ threats.
What’s more, a study found that internal threats have become more common for small and medium-sized businesses. On top of that, it’s no surprise that 98% of all cyberattacks rely on social engineering.
With all the data a company holds, limiting access to more sensitive information should be on every company’s security checklist. By determining who gains access to what, the risk of leaked information and unauthorized logins is minimized.
If you have a website, be mindful when choosing user roles for your employees. Here are some typical user roles:
- Users can add new posts and edit, publish, and delete their own content pieces.
- Similar to Author, but with more access. This user can create, publish, issue, and delete content pieces by other editors and writers.
- These users can only add new content and edit their own pieces.
- They’re the most restricted users, as subscribers can only view shared content.
- It’s the most powerful role, as users assigned to this have full control over the whole website. Admins have extensive access, from content creation and management to registering new users, installing extensions, and updating the CMS.
6. Conduct a Network Vulnerability Scan
Performing regular network vulnerability scans help ensure that a system is free from any kind of malware.
Apart from looking for signs of viruses and analyzing how severely they’ve affected the system, network vulnerability scans can also point out security misconfigurations and offer suggestions to fix them.
Some of the best network scanning tools include Intruder and Wireshark. That said, consider the tool’s compatibility with your system’s infrastructure. For example, opt for the former if your data is cloud-based and choose the latter if you prefer open-source software.
7. Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is a security aid that enables online anonymity. When activated, a VPN will create a separate connection tunnel on top of a potentially insecure network.
This security tool helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks – a common eavesdropping method. It begins when hackers find a wireless access point and use it as a backdoor to access connected devices.
Here’s how a VPN works in a nutshell:
- A VPN hides users’ IP addresses and redirects them to their remote servers, enabling their browsing activities to be associated with the VPN’s IP address.
- The private connection prevents internet service providers, browsers, search engines, and even cybercriminals from tracking their activities.
- The tool also encrypts the transmitted information to ensure better data security.
On a side note, it’s crucial to choose a reliable VPN to protect your sensitive data. Some of the best ones are NordVPN, Private Internet Access (PIA), and ExpressVPN.
8. Perform Regular Backups
Creating backups is about making multiple copies of important files and storing them in separate locations for preservation purposes. It reinforces data security by ensuring easy file retrieval after a hardware malfunction, system failure, or unauthorized access.
Business owners can perform backups at various intervals, such as weekly or monthly. However, daily backups are highly recommended, especially if you run an online shop or eCommerce website.
Scheduling regular backups is also easy thanks to numerous software offering automated backup features.
Excellent backup software includes EaseUS Todo Backup Free, Google Drive, and Paragon Backup and Recovery. If you have a WordPress website, UpdraftPlus, BlogVault, and Jetpack are among the best backup plugins.
Network security is a crucial element that helps ensure a business’s success in the long run. It brings numerous benefits, from improved ROI to data breach prevention.
Throughout this article, you’ve learned eight tips for solidifying your network security. Here’s a short recap:
- Use HTTPS. It’s a vital element for every business website as it encrypts data transferred from users’ browsers to a web server and vice versa.
- Install anti-malware software. The tool makes sure that your system is free from any kinds of malware and harmful code.
- Create and implement cybersecurity policies. Doing so can minimize the risk of cyber threats and security breaches.
- Don’t forget password security. Not only do you need a strong password, but also remember to frequently change it.
- Limit access to data. This process helps prevent information leaks and minimize internal threats.
- Conduct a network vulnerability scan. Check your system’s overall health, identify vulnerabilities, and discover solutions for how to fix them.
- Use a VPN. It’s a security tool that enables online anonymity by hiding users’ IP addresses and creating a private connection on top of a potentially insecure network.
- Perform regular backups. Having multiple copies of data ensures easy restoration, which can save a lot of hassle.
By implementing the above tips, your network should be in pretty good shape to keep cyber threats away. Good luck with your new business!
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